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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Be Anxious for Nothing? Really? NOTHING??


It has officially been three weeks since the birth of our beautiful daughter, Riley Grace Cochran! I cannot believe three weeks have already passed since she came into our lives. We love her so much already! We have already learned so much during this short time. I can see already that I will never stop learning about God’s love through my relationship with my daughter. I have learned many things so far, but this lesson stands out today.

Here’s a little insight into our lives for the past three weeks:

Since being parents, Patrick has heard the following questions from me:
Do you think her skin is yellowish?
Do you think this baby acne is normal?
Do you think that nurse was too rough with her?
Do you think I’m feeding her the right way?
Do you think that if I eat this food, it will upset her stomach?
Do you think she’s too small for this car seat? She can’t hold her neck up.
Does she feel hot to you?
Is this room too cold for her?
Do you think her room has enough air circulation?
Do you think this mucus is bothering her too much?
Does her breathing sound labored?
Is her umbilical cord supposed to do this?
How do you get these gas pains to stop hurting?
How do I know if she’s getting enough milk?
Am I hurting her neck or her head when I force this gown over her head?
She’s only had two poops today. Does that mean she’s dehydrated? That’s what the book says (Side note:  Patrick has heard one million things from me about what the “parent emails” say we should do or say what is “normal” in pregnancy and childbirth. Anytime I bring up the book or the website, he tells me I shouldn’t look at them because I don’t have enough discernment to take the good and discard the bad, or at least realize that our baby and my pregnancy are not going to follow every “norm” out there. This has been a constant source of laughter throughout this pregnancy. :-) )

And I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting to list.

Worry and anxiety = sinful Ouch!

The pointit is very easy to worry. I knew that already. Now, I understand that it is very easy to worry about your kids. I can’t remember how many times I would say, “Moooommm” in a long, drawn out voice because my mom was worrying about me for some reason, and I was trying to convince her that she didn’t need to worry. But when I was talking to Patrick, I was justifying my worries (or attempting to) because Riley Grace is just a newborn and she can’t tell me what she needs or if something is genuinely wrong as her mom, its my responsibility to figure out what’s wrong and take care of her. In the beginning, it was stressing me out that she would cry and the things that I would try to do in an attempt to console her were not working. Even though I thought that I had justified the worries by saying that it’s my responsibility to worry about her so that her needs are met, I knew that my justification was useless. (It's ok to be concerned and take action when necessary, but worry and anxiety take that concern too far!)

In God’s Word, we are told on countless occasions that we are not to worry about ANYTHING. Surely God can’t mean  “anything” whenever it is my responsibility to make sure Riley Grace stays alive?! Parenthood must be the exception to this command, right? My husband quickly reminded me that while God has given us responsibility as parents to take care of her, it is ultimately His work to keep her alive or take her whenever He wills for that to happen. I can do all the things in my power that I know to do in order to preserve her life, and if God has willed for her final breath to be breathed, then it will happen regardless of what I have done to keep her alive. Also, if I am not the perfect mom (which I will never be!) and make a mistake and swaddle her too tight or turn the air too low or fail to clean her cord properly and its not her time to leave this earth, then God will preserve her life in spite of my mistakes. What a comforting truth! If I am worrying, then I am trusting in myself, not the Lord. How foolish is that, but how often to we default to worry??

APPLICATION:

Read each of these passages and journal about what you learn about worry and anxiety.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Matthew 6:25-34 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Worry begins in your mind. Then, it can lead to actions (sinful actionsbecause remember, worrying is sinful because we are trusting in ourselves instead of God which Prov. 3:7 tells us NOT to be wise in our own eyes!). What are some things that tend to worry you? In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul is defending his ministry and urging believers to test what they hear in order to believe and follow the truth and not heresy. He urges them in verse 5 to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”. How can you take your thoughts captive when it comes to worry and anxiety? For many of us, worrying comes natural because we find ourselves in a situation that is out of our control. Since it is so natural, we can’t expect to just wake up and be worry-free. We have to actively pursue trusting the Lord in the face of situations in which we would normally resort to worrying.

Pray and ask the Lord to give you the strength, faith, and self-control when you are faced with the opportunity to worry or trust Him in whatever circumstance you are facing! You may be facing something much more daunting than some of the silly questions I asked my husband about taking care of our three-week old, but the Lord is sovereign over all of our circumstances, and He loves us! Trust Him, and don’t live in anxiety. Remember Philippians 4:7 He is the God of PEACE!


Monday, September 30, 2013

Becoming Part 3: From the Outside In




Part 3Outside influences. Many different things can happen in the world and in our lives that affect who we become. People can be affected by positive influences, such as the birth of a baby or the receiving of a new job. Negative influences, such as the death of a loved one, crime, or injustice in the world, can also affect who we become. We can allow these circumstances to bring us closer to or drive us further from the Lord. On a large scale, happenings in the world around us take their toll on who we become. I am sure every one of us has vivid memories of where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. This catastrophe brings up an array of memories for many different Americans. Each year, we turn on the news to see a replay of that fateful September day. We may have been affected by becoming more fearful or anxious about the world in which we live. It may have caused us to reach out to people in need and look beyond our own needs. It may have caused us to harbor feelings of bitterness or anger toward the people responsible for this devastation. And that is just one event that could have affected who we are today. On a more personal level, 11 days ago, our daughter came into the world!  What a huge impact she has already made on our lives!  We are now parents! Even in this short time of being parents, we already have so much love for our daughter. As we became parents, we assumed a whole lot of responsibility. This little life is dependent on us for everything! Our bodies ache from sleepless nights as we are forced to become more selfless so that she can survive. Her smiles and coos encourage us and overwhelm us as we ponder how gracious the Lord has been for entrusting her to us. We will forever be affected by her, and our roles as parents will continue to shape who we are.

There are several examples in God’s Word of people who were affected by difficult outside influences, circumstances in which they had to make a choice in how to respond. The first example that came to my mind was Joseph. Upon reading the narrative of his life, it’s easy to be quick to say how unfair his circumstances were. It wasn’t his fault that he was his father’s favorite child! It wasn’t his fault that God gave him dreams. It wasn’t his fault that his dreams depicted that his family would bow down to him. It wasn’t his fault that Potipher’s wife lied about his intentions. It wasn’t his fault that the cupbearer forgot to mention his service to Pharoah. He followed the Lord no matter the tough circumstances in which he faced. He remained loyal in the midst of temptation. His faith remained strong in the midst of a pagan culture. He feared the Lord and spared and loved his brothers even though he could have killed them as soon as he saw them requesting grain during the famine. He could have blamed God for his tough times, and he could have made a lot of different decisions in order to “get back” at his brothers. I can think of so many opportunities he could have taken to spitefully punish his brothers for the pain they incurred upon him. Out of pride, he could have reminded them of his dreams. Instead, he viewed his circumstances as the sovereign plan of the Lord. He didn’t give his brothers credit for how his future turned unfolded he clearly saw that it was God’s will that he be in Egypt, and God used what his brothers meant for harm (Genesis 50:19-21). What would you have done?

Another example that came to my mind was that of Esther. She was a Jewish girl who was forced to enter the palace of King Xerxes in order for him to choose a new wife. She was chosen as queen, and she hid her Jewish heritage for a time. Once she discovered Haman’s evil plot, she was encouraged and challenged by Mordecai to go before the king uninvited in order to save her people. She didn’t ask to be chosen as queen. And in a quick turn of events, she was faced with the choice to bravely approach the king and possibly be killed or to shrink back and hide her heritage in order to save herself. She was definitely affected by outside influences, being forced to marry a complete stranger. She could have been bitter about her future. She could have been prideful about her new status. She could have forgotten her faith and turned to pagan religions in order to hopefully save herself. She could have allowed fear to hinder her from being obedient. Instead, she remained faithful to the Lord and to her people. She considered the consequences and still chose to bravely defend her people, even in direct disobedience to the protocol of approaching the king (Esther 4:12-17). What would you have done?

Let us be encouraged that no matter what happens to us or affects us, God is sovereign over all things AND He loves us more than we could ever imagine. We can take comfort in this fact whether we are facing joyous or trying situations! The part that we play is simple and crucial how will we respond, and how will we allow our circumstances to affect who we become?

APPLICATION
-              Consider Joseph’s and Esther’s stories. How do you think you would have responded if you were in their shoes? What can you learn from their trust in and obedience to the Lord amidst tough times?
-              Consider what your response usually is when you face difficult times? Do you turn to the Lord? Do you blame him? Are you quick or slow to see God’s sovereign purposes in those situations? Ask the Lord to help you trust Him no matter what situation you are faced with. Ask Him to give you faith to obey.
-              Read Paul’s description of the outside influences that he faced in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33. Many of us would classify these sufferings as unfair in light of how Paul served Christ. However, Paul is not complaining when he’s listing his sufferings. In fact, he is boasting in Christ! Let us learn from the many examples of people in Scripture (Remember, they are just ordinary people like us!) who obeyed God and trusted in Him instead of allowing hard times to drive them further away from Him. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Becoming Part 2: Our Heavenly Father’s Role




Last time, I encouraged you to read Psalm 139 and contemplate God’s love for you, so let’s start there! Personally, Psalm 139 is one of the most encouraging and comforting Psalms.  It is filled with promises about how God intricately and personally knows every single detail of our existence because He made us and planned for our entry into the world. How humbling and mind-blowing is it to come to the realization that the God of the universe who created every tree and mountain and planet and galaxy and person who ever lived and ever will live knows us each by name, knows how many hairs are on our head, knows every time we sit and rise, knows all of our faults and still loves us, and knows the details of our every hidden thought. Our great and powerful God loves us enough to be that personal with us. This Psalm adequately portrays the significance of the role God plays in shaping who we become. As I mentioned last time, He set our lives in motion and is involved in every step of the way from conception, to birth, to salvation, and to sanctification.

In each of the next few posts, I want to give a few Biblical examples of how each different aspect (God, circumstances, ourselves) plays a role in who we become. Our heavenly Father the Almighty God is the author of history and holds everything together. He holds the universe in place, and He holds our bodies together. The first example I want to mention is our heavenly Father’s role in His choosing of Israel as a people for Himself.  Israel did NOTHING to deserve for God to choose them. God decided, in His sovereign wisdom, to take a people for Himself in Israel. He set them apart. He delivered them time and time again despite their unfaithfulness (Psalm 104-106). He set up laws for them to follow in order to set them apart. And He promised and provided a way of salvation for them. God played a huge part in Israel’s identity; in fact, they were identified solely as following the Lord while other nations sought after a multitude of false gods. A New Testament example of God’s role in “becoming” is found in Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a humble teenage girl with no merit in herself to even dream of becoming the mother of the long-awaited Messiah. However, God had big plans for her life plans that would ultimately bring Him the greatest glory. plans for her to be the mother of the Savior of the world!

Whatever role God has called you in, HE is the one who has purposed it and will enable you to bring Him glory in obediently carrying out His plans for you. For example, I am going to become a mother in a few short days!  This excites me and terrifies me at the same time (the delivery part and everything after!). I know that there is no way in the world that this would be possible apart from God ordaining this for my life. The forming of a child is only through His sovereign design. The timing of this pregnancy was His sovereign plan although my husband and I were surprised, God wasn’t! The ability for me to become a godly mother will only be through His guidance and strength.  God has planned for me to become a mother, and He will enable me to do it! 

APPLICATION
-              Read and pray over Psalm 33, thanking God for creating and loving you and asking Him to help you trust Him with the plans He has for you.
-              Read Luke 1:26-56. Try to imagine what Mary was experiencing! Notice her responses to the Lord through this process. How can you learn from Mary’s example?
-              Read Acts 17:24-28. Thank the Father for being wise and sovereign over every detail. Verse 26 even explains that He determines the times and places of where we will live! Then, verse 27 states that His purpose is for us to seek Him and find Him. What are some areas of your life that you need to have greater trust in the sovereignty of the loving God?